With Saturday's game unveiling this year's FIRST Robotics Competition: Power Up has officially kicked off! The Robowranglers met bright and early Saturday morning to watch the unveiling as a team, and then began analysis of our new challenge.
While we mostly followed the kickoff agenda I outlined here, things organically evolved outside our normal process. I'll explain more...
Overall Initial Reaction: We love the game. Love it, love it, love it.
Our students tell me the general reaction from the community is that "the game is too much like Recycle Rush, and they hate it." This made me laugh since the Robowranglers really loved Recycle Rush! I guess we're weird? We loved Recycle Rush... so far we love Power Up.
In my opinion, it feels like this is a game with LOTS of fun "optimization / execution" type design challenges, but also has a small number of opportunities to excel through "clever system design".
Let me better explain how the distinction works in my mind...
In 2015, FRC Recycle Rush presented teams with a very open-ended design challenge. Teams were able to build robots that could literally span the whole field in pursuit of a larger "engineer the perfect match" challenge. This was a game which could be won or lost during the design challenge. To contrast that, in 2016 FRC Stronghold most teams converged on a straightforward strategy which lent itself to a very conventional robot design - the trick in this game was to optimize the robot's execution; the small details and small advantages mattered more than the audacity of the robot's system design. It was won and lost on the field with match strategy and execution. In my personal opinion a GREAT game has a good balance of both. (Though I did REALLY enjoy the opportunity the 2015 game provided to design "delicate" clever mechanisms which didn't need to survive the rigors of head-to-head defense... there's a lot of fun in figuring out that kind of stuff!) Though we're barely 36 hours into the season, it seems like 2018 has a good balance.
Now, what 2018 has in spades, is STRATEGY. This game might be the most interesting strategic game we've ever had. There is a ton of fun strategic thinking to be done during the build season since it lends itself to detailed scoring analysis driven design (much more than 2016 or 2017). There is also a TON of fun strategic thinking to be done during the competition season. This might be the most interesting "coach's game" we've had since I started FRC. "Like a game of high-speed chess, with flashing lights."
Random Musings on the Robowrangler Kickoff and FRC-Power Up:
- The new manual sections threw me for a bit of a loop. We finished reviewing "The Game" section and I moved onto "The Robot" but only then realized... "We still haven't talked about scoring... did we miss something?"
- Camp chairs on the field was a great new addition. I'm leaving mine up there. I asked Emerson if we could get a fire pit too (Robowrangler Lead Teacher extraordinaire and "THE BOSS"). Judging by the way she just stared at me, I'm assuming it's probably not going to happen.
- We added a new phase in the kickoff plan, BEFORE we did any sort of rule review. "Everyone tell me, what are you picturing right now? What robot features are stuck in your head?" My response was a mechanism which makes the Mario "jump" noise every time it actuates. It was a lot of fun to get these unfiltered crazy ideas before grounding ourselves in reality.
- There don't seem to be a lot of discrete sub-systems this year, I imagine our prototyping teams will be split less by subsystem and more by overall-system concept. We may end up doing multiple high-fidelity prototypes which test different takes on the same mechanism.
- I keep wanting to call the game "Level Up"
- It would have been nice to get another Human Player in the booth. I wonder if the Technician was originally slated for that role.
- Our Goal Map didn't change much for this year.
- Robot Rule Review went VERY quickly using our "only review the changes" method.
- At some meetings we go around the circle and do introductions (until everyone has a chance to learn names). These introductions typically include a random question, chosen by a student. Kickoff's question was: "Who is your favorite celebrity." Some of the responses... explain a lot.
- The random red/blue assignments is brutal in subtle ways. Prediction: Some Einstein matches will be decided or heavily influenced by the randomizer.
- The view count on our 2016 video seems to have jumped up the last few days, maybe people are interested in the climber? CAD for "Renegade" is here.
- The naming FIRST gave things is actually fairly conversational... we didn't nickname too many things this year during kickoff. (Last year the airships were referred to as "treehouses" by Robowranglers).
- We did start to talk about "THE SCALES OF JUSTICE"... that one may stick. I saw someone shorthand it that field element as "the justice" in Slack earlier.
- There have been a lot of "tip the scales" and "balance" puns already.
- I'm thrilled with the Robowrangler students so far this year. Seems like a group built for greatness.
Day 2: No official meeting on Sunday (Day 2) but judging by the activity in Slack, a lot of Wranglers were thinking about the game. A few people were up at IFI doing design "prep" work. Building some initial resources for the team to talk around at our meeting Monday night (Day 3). I'm personally VERY excited about this game and season; I had a lot of "robot energy" going into kickoff, and that hasn't abated. It's going to be a fun season: bring it on.